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Preparing for Various Real Life Situations with Mixed Reality

Bagwell College of Education (BCOE) at Kennesaw State University (KSU) houses a discreet AVATAR lab, where researchers are making great strides in the field of mixed reality. The simulation programmes designed here looks to aid students and teachers with handling real-life scenarios. Mixed reality simulations or MRS combine digital and human components. Participants interact with virtual avatars that simulate human behaviour.

At present, the experimental MRS tech can create an artificial version of several situations, including situations where teachers engage with virtual students, job-seekers participate in interviews with simulated bosses, and doctors deliver difficult diagnoses to virtual patients. There is even a simulation that helps train restaurant serving staff through the use of virtual guests.

Developed by the University of Central Florida, the simulation programme was previously known as TeachLive. From there, a Californian software developer repackaged the programme and renamed it Mursion. KSU is among the 30 schools who have purchased the right to use Mursion four research and training purposes. Licencing the programme was possible due to the one-time grant and sponsors who trust the usefulness of the technology. Among the backers is BCOE dean, Dr Cindy Reed.

Dr Kate Zimmer, KSU interim department chair of inclusive education, believes that the possibilities for MRS are limitless. She claims that almost any discipline can utilise this technology. Right from education to healthcare and conflict management, Zimmer explained her dreams about seeing the application of Mursion in all fields.

Kate Zimmer (left) and Melissa Driver (right) helped to integrate the classroom simulation to KSU. Photo credit: David Caselli

Assistant professor of special education Dr Melissa Driver, along with Dr Zimmer, is responsible for the integration of the mixed reality tech at KSU. These two designed many of the simulations that the MRS is capable of running today. Zimmer says that designing simulations from scratch require technical knowledge. However, with helpful templates, almost anybody can conjure different situations as per their needs.

For example, if someone wanted to create a conference setting, they can choose the office location. The avatars, in this case, would be staff members or company management. Each of the individual avatars has character traits, personalities and biographies that users can tweak. Depending on your needs, you can choose the easy difficulty or hard difficulty four the simulation. Picking the former allows you to complete the training easily, while the latter complicates the procedure.

Repeated usage of the simulation allows them to improve the technology’s effectiveness and immersion. With the growth in simulation quantity and quality of MRS in the AVATAR lab, both Dr Zimmer and Dr Driver have high expectations when it comes to the mixed reality’s applications. – Dr Kate Zimmer

They feel that increased utilisation and visibility will help propel the technology to greater heights. Zimmer explains that she wants people to understand the cost-effectiveness of MRS. This research-based method of preparing people four the challenges in real-life significantly increases their chances of success.

At present, KSU is seeking additional funding and grants from external sources to continue the research and application of mixed reality simulation services.

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